China's surging nationalism
ÁÎ×Ó¹â HenryC.K.Liu ¹ù¤l¥ú
hliu at SPAMmindspring.com
Tue Dec 28 16:16:00 MST 1999
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday December 29, 1999
Uncle Sam and China's surging nationalism
By Wu Zhong
STORY: A NEW book, The Way Out For China - Under the
Shadow of Globalisation, published last month in Beijing by
the privileged Publishing House of the Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences, attempts to rationalise the growing
anti-American sentiments among mainlanders in the wake of
the US-led Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
on 7 May.
Authors of the book claim it is a sequel to China Can Say
No, an influential best-seller in the mid-1990s on the rising
nationalism in the mainland. It may be too early to say if The Way Out
would be selling as well as its predecessor, but it no doubt has already
aroused attention, particularly in Beijing's intellectual circles which
are politically sensitive.
The fact that the publication of the book by such a
privileged state-run publishing house wanted the authorities'
permission is itself quite revealing. It is hard to say to what extent
views contained in this book may have reflected the thinking of some
mainland leaders. It is also difficult to judge to what extent such
views had influenced or would influence Beijing's policy-making.
It is nevertheless probably quite safe to say that the
central leadership could not afford to completely ignore such a
voice arising out of the public's anti-American feelings over the
Nato embassy bombing for which the United States has been held
In this sense, the book may be of help to one's
understanding of some subtle changes in Beijing's policy towards
Washington since the unpleasant incident. Similarly, a student of
Washington's China policy would always keep an eye on anti-China voices
among the American public as well as on the Capitol Hill.
Authors of The Way Out _ young scholars in Beijing
including Fang Ning, a university professor, Wang Xiaodong, a writer and
editor, and Song Qiang, one of the co-authors of China Can Say No _
proudly claim themselves all belonging to a club whose members dare to
``Say No to Uncle Sam''.
Indeed The Way Out follows the line of China Can Say No to
sneer at what it calls the pro-American trend on the mainland over the
past two decades, justifying the need for the country to boost
nationalism in the face of threat from ``Western post-colonialism'' in
the name of economic globalisation.
The Way Out starts its argument with the embassy bombing by
saying that the incident has shocked the whole nation awakening people's
patriotic zeal and triggering fierce debates on how to look at the
If one takes a rational view of the incident, the book
continues, it can be concluded that the US really does not care at all
about its ties with China. So the question whether the Chinese embassy
was bombed accidentally or deliberately is irrelevant to such a
``It would be even worse if the embassy was bombed by
accident which could only mean the Americans have never
taken you seriously at all. A deliberate bombing would at
least indicate they took you as an enemy worthy to deal with,'' it says
quoting one of the numerous messages on Internet sent by angry mainland
youths following the bombing.
In contrast, ``China has always put its friendship with the
US on top'', the book says adding that China should give up its
one-sided enthusiasm to develop a ``partnership'' with the US.
``In the past many years, China has been trying to be a
`good boy'. This has led such a country as the US, that only recognises
strength, forget about China's real strength.
Backed by strength (for China), to behave like a `bad boy'
on some proper occasions may instead be helpful to forge the (Sino-US)
constructive partnership,'' the book says.
To do so, China must enhance its military strength so that
it will be able to play the stick instead of just carrot. After all``the
combined use of stick and carrot is a basic law in international
However, in another context, it argues that what today's
China lacks is not merely national strength but the spirit of
nationalism and patriotism _ or put it in short, the guts to say ``No to
Uncle Sam''. In the early 1950s, China was much more backward than today
but Mao Zedong dared to send troops to Korea to confront the US, the
It warns that in the new millennium, the US will treat
China as a strong adversary and will never tolerate China becoming
modernised in the wake of economic globalisation.
To justify this argument, the authors propose a theoretical
framework which is more sophisticated than the one presented in China
Can Say No.
The theory maintains that Western capitalism has never
ceased its attempt to conquer the world through colonialisation which,
though, takes different forms in different times.
After World War II, nations sought independence and
development amid the trend of decolonisation. Western capital flowed in
the name of helping for their development.
But in the end what the West gained was huge profits and
markets while the developing countries remained their suppliers of cheap
resources and labour. The authors call this ``neo-colonialisation''
which ``replaces warfields with markets''.
Through ``neo-colonialism'', Western countries have
accomplished their monopoly of the operation of the world economy. Under
such circumstances, the West would never allow any developing country to
join its rank, The Way Out concludes.
The Asian financial crisis and the US-led Nato's air strike
against Yugoslavia over Kosovo herald the age of Western
``post-colonialisation'' as economic and financial globalisation further
intensify since the end of the Cold War because there is no longer any
other force which is strong enough to check the expansion of Western
``After the Cold War, the West has shifted its strategic
focus onto the Third World mapping its blueprint for the `new world
order','' the book says.
To build up such a new order, the West would support some
countries' development while curbing others. As the Asian financial
crisis has shown, it took no mercy on non-Western economies that were
growing up to match them.
On the other hand, the West would support some which are
lagging far behind in development. Only when people there could maintain
minimal income could ``they afford hamburgers'.
Since there remains only one single superpower, whenever
there appears some crisis threatening the formation of the new order,
the US would take whatever action _ political, economic or military _
deemed necessary. This is true in the case Kosovo.
Through such theorisation, the authors derive a conclusion
that it is only China's one-sided wish to rely for its modernisation on
participation in such economic globalistion.
The embassy bombing serves a warning that ``We are indeed
being contained and can no longer live in beautiful dreams that the
international situation is so nice (to us)''.
In China's opening up over the past two decades, ``it may
be asserted that we do not rely for our opening up on ourselves but are
living on the `goodwill' of the US''. The embassy bombing, however,
``tells us that the Americans may withdraw their goodwill at any time
and if we wish to live peacefully for long we'd better find some other
This is because the rules of the game in today's
globalisation are set by strong powers in which China has no say.
Therefore ``in some sense, how far China's opening up can go depends on
how far the US would allow it to go''.
From here, however, the authors seem to defy their logical
reasoning. Instead of concluding that China ought to reverse its
opening up, the authors maintain that the country should continue to
open its doors and take part in the globalisation process.
But the nationalistic consciousness of the Chinese people
must be awakened so that they can get united to concentrate their
efforts on strengthening the nation.
Hence, going through the book, one may gain the impression
that sharp criticisms by the authors target more at the pro-US and
pro-West thinking and individuals inside the mainland, including some
leaders, than at what they call the ``economic imperialist''_ Uncle Sam.
The book is in fact a collection of essays, each written by
an individual author. This makes its theorisation weak and less
coherent. And for convenience of criticism, the authors can often be
seen jumping to conclusions based on just one factor.
Apparently, the authors' understanding of the Asian
financial crisis is more or less superficial and, because of this, they
sound more like ``theorists of conspiracy'' when they derive their
arguments based on the crisis.
It is common sense that international relations are
dominated by utilitarian concerns. Each country's foreign policy is
worked out to ultimately serve its own interests. Uncle Sam has
never hidden this. US government officials always proclaim that
``our China policy is in interests of the the US''.
And if some Chinese would think by offering ``friendship''
they could eventually win a ``free lunch'' from a ``goodwilled''
superpower, such thinking is indeed too naive, one-sided and wishful.
Probably there are quite many people on the mainland with
such wishful thinking and expectation. This partially accounts for the
degree of shock and outrage in the nation shown over the bombing. This
also explains why the publication of books like The Way Out For China,
and China Can Say No, would attract wide attention.
If such wishful thinking had ever had some influence on
Beijing's policy toward Washington, which is highly doubtful, such
influence now must have been eliminated. And in the new millennium,
Beijing is bound to take a realistic, utilitarian approach to its ties
with Washington. This may be a revelation one can get from The Way Out
For China Under The Shadow Of Globalisation.
Copyright(c) 1999 Hong Kong Standard Newspapers Ltd. All rights
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